Fri Mar 21 2008: Road to Hana

5AM and we're wide awake listening to the sound of Ho'oilo's sprinklers raining water on the moonlit grass. Yep, we're up way before sunrise. I guess that's what we get for passing out at 9PM...

Not much to do at 5AM but take pictures of the moon. This is from the window of our room, staring across the ocean to the next island in Hawaii, Lania

It's really confusing trying to figure out what time it is here. I went through the travel ritual of changing all the time zones on all the devices we're carrying: cameras, cell-phone, iPods and alarm clock. All of them have two options - "Hawaii" and "Hawaii Daylight Savings Time", but little did I know Hawaii doesn't observe DST! Dan told us last night that it's confusing for him as well as he an extra step to figure out what time it is for his guests when he is calling them before their trip to Maui.

Our route for the day. We're going clear across the island, west coast to east coast and back in a day!

We have a lot of time right now to figure out what we're going to do on our first full day on Maui. We figured today might be a good day to tackle the Road to Hana. A couple of our friends have driven out to Hana, and they told us it was definitely a day-long excursion, and they didn't even make it to Hana! They warned us not to drive past sundown becuase there were no lights on the road and tackling twists and hair-pin turns in the dark would be quite treacherous. So we thought since we were up so early, we would take advantage of all the daylight we had and head to the east coast very early. Out the door and on the bikes at 7AM!

A close-up of the Road to Hana. Notice the green of the rainforests and the proximity of the coast. Hoping it will make for a great ride!

The Buells have very bad low-frequency vibrations at low-revs, you feel it through every part of your body that contacts the bike: fingers, butt and toes. But the vibrations lessen somewhat as you take the bike higher in the rev range. Which is exactly what we did on the coastal road south out of Lahaina. The seating position is very upright compared to other supersport bikes and very comfortable for doing sport-touring. And even though there's no windscreen on these bikes, the airflow is clean so your body and head aren't being buffeted around in the wind. Makes you feel like you're going faster too, which we'll need as most of the coastal roads are signed 45mph. It's only inland, the speed limit rises to a more playful 55 mph.

Lookout on the west coast of Maui

A house guest we were talking to last night, Terry, has vacationed in Maui quite often to visit her niece here. She mentioned that a good place to stop was Paia, which used to be an old hippie compound. So about an hour into our journey, that's where we stopped for breakfast and planned all the things we were going to do in Hana.

Stopping for breakfast in Paia

Gene looking for the hippies in Paia
Neda is taking a picture of one.

Dharma Initiative has invaded Paia! Damn hippies!

We had done a lot of research about this route, and it's very much a case of "the journey is the destination". Too many people have rushed through the route and were disappointed when they finally reached Hana. Even if you aren't a motorcyclist and don't enjoy twisty, winding roads, the route runs through lush green scenery. There are countless nooks and crannies where you can pull over and explore a waterfall or a tropical garden or just to admire the view of the ocean from the road. The entire road wends its way through rainforests of the northern coasts, as it receives most of the moisture of the North-Easterly Trade Winds. Everything we've read says it always rains on the road to Hana. Good thing we brought our rainsuits. Or so we thought...

Neda is looking for a place to pull over to go surf-watching. Sugar cane trees to the right of us.

Watching the surf hit the northern shoreline

The road did not let down its reputation. Speed limit on most of the turns were 10-15 mph, which is why even though Hana is only 50 miles away, it will still take you over 2 hours of driving to reach it. Unfortunately for me, 15-20 mph puts me in downtown ShakeyTown on my Buell! I gritted my teeth (to keep the rest of my fillings from falling out) and negotiated all the turns wondering if I was leaving pieces of the bike beind me as I pictured all the nuts and bolts slowly loosening themselves under all that vibration! How do Buell owners ride these things? I can't imagine! Little did I know, it was about to get much worse...

Riding through the rainforests on the Road to Hana

It was on this day, riding out to Hana that we really got a sense of the Hawaii that you read about and see on TV. Because driving in from the airport through downtown Kahului and even into Lahaina, I felt that we could have been anywhere in the south-western United States. The signs, stores and even most of the people were the same. Our cab driver was from Ohio! Dan and Amy were from Seattle! Not to stereotype, but there was no hint of Hawaiian culture anywhere. It sounds stereotypical, but we were looking for hula girls in grass skirts everywhere (okay, *I* was looking for hula girls in grass skirts everywhere). What we got instead was landscape instead of culture. The stereotypical Hawaiian beaches and rainforests made up for the fact that in the city, everything was very much Americano. I know, I know, Hawaii is a US state, but still...

A bit of Hawaii reflected in the American motorcycle's tank...

The first stop on the Road to Hana was called the Garden of Eden, just a few miles in. A beautiful garden full of native and imported bamboo trees and flowers and plants from all over the world. The owners had to first eradicate all the predatory insects and plants that threatened most of the denizens of the Garden.

Bikes are lounging in the Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

Bamboo trees in the Garden of Eden

We also stopped at a fruit stand where they were selling fresh pineapples and sugarcanes. Very tasty!

Bikes are impatient: "Stop hiking around already and start riding!"

Upper Puohokamoa Falls. This is the view from the Garden of Eden. If we hadn't had seen this, we would have rode right by it as we left the Garden.

Hiked to the bottom of Upper Puohokamoa Falls.

Suiting up for the next leg

As we got further, the moisture turned to a slight drizzle. As a motorcyclist, it's difficult to decide when to don the rainsuits. How do the skies look ahead? Is the rain going to abate soon or get worse. Despite all educated guesses, the weather is still a crapshoot and we decide to forgo the suits and forge on in the light drizzle. Which you can guess is a perfect reason for the skies to open up on top of us and drench us in monsoon-like rain. We pull over to a fruit stand at the side of the road, abandon our bikes and huddle under the umbrellas, hastily pulling on our rainsuits over our wet leathers and jeans. The owners of the fruit stand chuckle at our chicken dance. Murphy's Law kicks in in full swing, and as we put on the last of our raingear, the rain stops, the sun shines, and we're stuck in our wet clothes underneath perfectly dry and waterproof rainsuits in the tropical heat. I felt like a wetnap in a plastic bag. To make matters worse, we ask the fruit stand lady how far Hana was. She replied, "Oh, you're just 3 miles away". AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Me, waiting out the rain. Actually, I think its stopped at this point and Neda is just waiting for me to wake up.
Sleep, Eat, Ride. That's all there is to life, really.

We reached Hana clad in our rainsuits in 85 F temperatures, and found that the town was all that we read about and expected. Namely not much... I mean, it was pretty and all with the view to the eastern coast, and I imagine the sunrises must be quite spectacular, but nothing beats riding through that rainforest! Having spent about 6 hours on the road to get here and not even stopping at all the sights along the way, I think a good plan for anyone doing the Road to Hana is to actually book a hotel room in Hana, and dedicate a good couple of days to get there and back so you can actually take your time and do some hiking along the way. Plus, you'll also catch a magnificent sunrise on the morning of the 2nd day!

Negotiating one of the turns on the Road to Hana

After lunch, we took a little break at a tiny beach just outside of Hana and caught a quick snooze before our ride back. We decided to try to do the road back non-stop just to get the rhythm of the turns. Traffic was light in the earlier part of the trip which allowed us to rip through the turns and other motorists were kind enough to move over when they saw (well, probably heard) our bikes approaching behind them. Halfway through, it finally happened: the vibrations managed to work the nut loose on my left mirror. (My own left nut was vibrated loose miles ago, but that's neither here nor there. Actually it's probably somewhere on the Road to Hana, but I digress). So I'm loooking at my mirror swivelling loosely on it's stalk. Heavy acceleration pulls the mirror back, and when I peer over, I see my own shocked reflection (actually, just my wide-open eyes) staring back at me! Hard braking pushes the mirror forward, and it looks like a dowsing rod trying to find water beneath the road in front of the bike. If it wasn't dangerous, it'd be funny! Actually, who I am kidding? I find it hysterical, and I play games trying to move the mirror back and forth by braking and accelerating, all the while wondering what else would vibrate off the bike.

Beach outside of Hana

Beach outside of Hana

Boots off, catch some Z's under a tree on a beach just outside Hana

I didn't have to wait long. No, nothing else shook off the bike, but now I noticed the Check Engine Light was illuminating intermittently. I wondered what it could be. Coolant? Nope, it's air-cooled. Oil pressure? We stop to check the oil. Nope, oil is topped up to full. Strange. It stayed on my mind the rest of the way, as I was trying to isolate what caused the light to go on. I tried different revs, different speeds, hard braking and accelerating (all the while trying to duck the mirror as it swivelled inches away from my helmet). Couldn't figure it out. I had nightmares of the engine exploding with me in full lean. Shrug, oh well.

On the Road to Ho'oilo. Yes, we're going back home now before it gets dark

We made pretty good time on the way back. Left Hana around 4:30PM and we were on the western shore on the way back to Lahaina by around 7PM, as the sun started setting. We got magnificent views of the sun-lit ocean, and after stopping for gas and snacks, we pulled into Ho'oilo House just as the sun disappeared under the horizon. Perfect timing! What a great day: amazing roads, rain-galore, problems with the bike. Sounds like a typical Gene and Neda motorcycle trip already!

Showered outside under the stars and asleep in bed by 9PM.

As a sidenote, I still don't know how to pronounce Ho'oilo. I'll have to ask Dan tomorrow.

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